For bohemian thirty-somethings who are into surfing and holistic lifestyle, Santa Teresa does not need to be followed by “, Costa Rica.” It has cachet all its own. I didn’t know that when I arrived back in February, but even more potently than 6 a.m. sun salutations and roadside tacos, I found the arts culture in this tiny expat community to be the thing that fed my soul.
Santa Teresa is a town of European, Australian and North American expats–people who wound up there while seeking la pura vida, the pure life, in the small coastal village. A few of those people make their living on the tiny strip running cafés that meld art-making with coffee service (or acai-kale smoothies). Two of my favourite spots were Almendra Sweets and Zwart Café. Both are owned and operated by women who divide their time between supplying Santa Teresa’s 1200 people with breakfast, and creating artwork they sell in their shops. At Zwart Café, patrons are encouraged to participate by painting with the cheery ocean-sunset hues splattered all over the back room, while the rest of the café remains stark white. (Well, not completely, thanks to the village’s dirt roads.) The owner Margriet’s house is available on Airbnb so if you really love her technicolour work, you can go get properly immersed.
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Almendra Sweets is owned by a woman who is so cool it broke my heart. I can find almost nothing about her on the internet, aside from her artist’s alias: AIP. Almendra means “almond” in Spanish (she’s Argentinean, or so I heard), so it’s hard to say whether that’s her name or just the sweet moniker she gave her café at the edge of town. I tried to visit every day, and she was always there, making hand-painted shell necklaces, creating little line-drawings of funky women, painting wooden spoons or ceramic mobiles to hang from the ceiling. Oh, and each day sporting a floral-embroidered dress that outdid the last. On my last day, I asked her, was she on social media? Nope. Did she have a portfolio site? Nope. Business cards? Nada. It seems that since then, she has decided to take on a Facebook page, or perhaps she already had but just didn’t want me to find her to begin with. See? So heartbreakingly cool.
My retirement plan is to just become a carbon copy of these two women and their lifestyles. And learn how to surf.